National Park Service Term Paper

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National Park Service

Since 1916, more than 370 parks of great natural beauty and grandeur from Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands to the Hawaiian Islands have been managed and preserved by the National Park Service (NPS) which is a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior. Such great historic and natural treasures as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone; are now parks that preserve the pristine animal habitats or echo the nation's history, such as the Gettysburg Battlefield or preserve such notable landscapes as Mesa Verde and parks along seashores, lakeshores, and river-ways. They also provide opportunities for outdoor activities, such as at Assateague Island and Lake Mead. (National Park Service

2006)

Millions of people visit our national park areas yearly. The NPS has been in charge of preserving park resources since its creation in 1916. In the 20th century, it became a superior visitor services agency while practicing a combination of active management and passive acceptance of natural systems and processes.

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Now this sort of management style has become insufficient to save the natural resources. Parks are becoming increasingly crowded reminders of past ages in a tortured landscape, with incompatible uses of resources, pollution coming from inside and outside the parks, and invasions of non-native plant, insect and animal species (National Park Service 2006-2). In addition, politics have shed an unwelcome light on certain groups as they have become interested in tapping the resources within the National Parks and the present management is seen as insufficient and contradictory.

Structure

The NPS is made up of five different subdivisions:

The

Air Resources Division pays attention to the current air quality conditions in parks, air quality trends in national parks, and, through ARIS, the ozone health advisories.

The

Term Paper on National Park Service Assignment

American Indian Liaison Office was created to improve relationships between American Indian Tribes, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and the National Park Service through consultation, outreach, technical assistance, education, and advisory services.

The

Geological Resources Division, includes Mining Operations Management, Minerals Management, Mining, and Oil and Gas.

The

National Park Service Division (NatureNet) is the educational division for students and teachers learning about protecting and restoring ecosystems of air, biology, geology, sounds, and water. It also is over Science and Research, Social Science, and the Natural Resource Challenge. The Natural Resource Challenge represents a major effort to address the challenges of caring for our country's natural heritage within the complexities of today's modern landscapes.

The Water Resources Division distributes water information and data; it has a section on Marine Conservation, Water Resources, and deals with the Wetlands in the National Parks.

History

The "National Park" idea of keeping intact a large-scale natural preservation has been credited to the artist George Catlin. While visiting the Dakotas in 1832, he realized the effects that America's westward expansion would have on the American Indian civilization, wildlife, and wilderness. They would be better preserved, he suggested, "by some great protecting policy of government...in a magnificent park.... A nation's park, containing man and beast, in all the wild[ness] and freshness of their nature's beauty!" (Everhart 1996)

George Catlin's vision began to find favor in 1864, when Congress donated Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to California as a state park. Eight years later, in 1872, Congress reserved Yellowstone country in the Wyoming and Montana territories "as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." Since there was no state formed to which it could be entrusted, Yellowstone remained a property of the U.S. Department of the Interior, and was designated as a national park -- the world's first one.

In the 1890s Congress took the Yellowstone precedent and reserved other national parks. In the early 1900s they included Sequoia, Yosemite (which was returned to the U.S. Government for this reason), Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, and Glacier Lake. The idea of preserving beautiful scenery was followed by a wave of tourism to these areas. Soon western railroads lobbied for the right to go into the parks and built grand rustic hotels in them to boost their passenger business. (Everhart 1990-56)

Preserving prehistoric Indian ruins and artifacts on the public lands became popular in the late nineteenth century. In 1889, Congress moved to protect Arizona's Casa Grande Ruin. It created Mesa Verde National Park, which contained the dramatic cliff dwellings of southwestern Colorado in 1906.

On August 25, 1906, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act, creating the NPS through an Act of Congress. This followed six years of wrangling by interest groups, and public officials, raising the concern of the American public. The campaign was led, in the House by Congressmen William Kent and John Raker, of California, and in the Senate by Reed Smoot of Utah. Congressman Kent was advised by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

The man who became the first full-time Director of the new NPS created by the act, Stephen T. Mather, was a wealthy borax industry executive. He, a number of recreational, outdoor groups, tourist groups, and the American Civic Association, along with automobile associations, were heavily involved in lobbying for the creation of this agency. (Winks 1997)

They spoke to preserve scenic reserves in most of the 37 parks that then existed, as well as to put a wide range of park proposals before Congress. The country of Switzerland was often brought up as a comparison with the U.S. As it had capitalized on its natural scenery more effectively than any other nation. The growing popularity of the railroad and automobile interests advocated more consistent administration of the existing parks in order to protect them more effectively, and also to make certain that accommodations and campgrounds were held to a consistent standard for the public's pleasure. The governing sentences of the NPS Act of 1916 read as follows:

The service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations (16U.S.C. 1(1994)).

William Henry Jackson, a photographer, was part of Dr. Ferdinand Hayden's U.S. Geological Survey of the territories, which took him to the west with his camera. His portable darkroom and cameras included glass plate sizes up to 20' x 24'. Jackson's labors resulted in first-ever photographs of some of the most significant resources of North America -- falls and geo-thermals of Yellowstone, ruins of Mesa Verde, mountains of Colorado, southwestern pueblos, and so on. These pioneering photographs are credited with convincing Congress to preserve many of these treasures of the West as national parks. (Winks 1997)

Many more parks were added to the roster of National Parks and varying degrees of rights and state privileges came with each enactment which created a National Park. Theodore Roosevelt took advantage of the act of 1906 to proclaim 18 national monuments before he left office. They included not only cultural features like El Morro, New Mexico, site of prehistoric petroglyphs and historic inscriptions, Montezuma Castle, Arizona, an outstanding cliff dwelling, but also natural features like Wyoming's Devils Tower and Arizona's Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon. Congress later "promoted" Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, and many other natural monuments to National Parks. (Everhart 1990)

Mission

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son of the founder of American landscape architecture and creator of Central Park, was a lifelong advocate of the institution of the National Park and insisted that there must be an overriding and succinct statement of purpose (or "mission statement"). Rather than just setting aside unique lands, he hoped the public would enjoy and participate in the use of the parks, so he had deleted words in the Act of 1906 which would mandate leaving an area "unimpaired for future generations," and inserted, "for the enjoyment of" those generations.

Thus the source of future conflicts: "Enjoyment" had to mean that the public would gain access by roads, trails, hotels, campgrounds, and administrative facilities, and at the time these were not invasive. But it could not have meant "unimpaired" was to be taken literally, since it included approval for leasing for tourist accommodation.

The Organic Act contained provisions that would affect natural resources in the parks. By reaffirming an act of 1901 that authorized the Secretary of the Interior to "permit rights of way in Yosemite, Sequoia, and General Grant national parks for pipelines, canals, ditches, water plans, dams, and reservoirs" and "to promote irrigation or mining or quarrying, or the manufacturing or cutting of timber outside the parks," the Act of 1916 allowed public use, when approved by the Secretary, to extend to consumption of parks' natural resources. This applied to only three national parks, all in California, where water interests were powerful and historically… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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